Mishnah Sample II: Mishnah Avot

Moses received Torah from Sinai

and he handed it on to Joshua

and Joshua to the elders

and elders to the prophets

and the prophets handed it on to the men of the great synagogue.

They said three things:

Be patient in judgement.

Raise up many disciples.

Make a fence around the Torah.

Shimon the Righteous was of the last members of the Great Assembly. He would say: Upon three things the world is maintained: Upon the Torah, upon the sacrifices of the Temple, and upon the kindness of people.

Antigonus of Sokho received from Shimon the Righteous. He would say: Do not be like servants who serve in order to receive a reward . . .

Rabbi Shimon ben Gamaliel [received from them and] says: Upon three things the world is maintained: Upon judgement, upon truth, and upon peace, as it is said in Scripture: "Truth and the judgement of peace shall you execute in your gates" (Zech. 8:16).

Rabbi Judah the Patriarch says: Which is the true path that a person should choose? Whatever enhances the doer and elicits enhanced regard from others. Be just as careful performing a trivial commandment as an important one, for you cannot know the reward of a commandment. And calculate the financial loss of performing a commandment against its spiritual profit, and the financial profit of a transgression against its spiritual loss.


1. This section is entitled Pirkei Avot, "sayings of the ancestors". Who do you think these ancestors might be?

2. What do you think the phrase "make a fence around the Torah" might mean?

3. Why does this section mention 3 different sets of "3 important things" and not tell you which are the most important?